Portugal – Day 5 – Lisbon

I started the day off with an amazing buffet breakfast at my hotel, before walking to the Sao Bento train station to catch a quick Intercity train to Campanhã station, where I had a coffee while I waited for my train to Lisbon. The train ride to Lisbon took about 3 hours.

Before I dive into Lisbon, let’s explore a brief history on Lisbon. Lisbon is Portugal’s capital city, as well as Portugals largest city, with a population of 2.9 million people if you include its metro area. Similar to Porto, the area was originally settled by Celtic people, however much earlier than Porto. They settled in 1200 BC. The Roman’s, Moors, and Napoleonic’s then came and occupied the Iberian Peninsula, which we learned about in my writing of the Portuguese history. Lisbon was an important trade city, due to its port access. Lisbon became the capital city of Portugal in 1255. A fun fact that I mentioned before is that the ruler of Brazil became the King of Portugal during the 19th century, and the capital city was moved from Lisbon to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil from 1808 to 1821.

I arrived at Oriente Station, which was about a 15 minutes walk to my hotel; Myriad by SANA. Oriente Station (Gare do Oriente) was specifically built for Expo ’98. It is covered by a translucent roof composed of a reticulated roof structure. It creates a very grand entrance to arriving passengers. The building was designed by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava. This modernist station is a hub for the Lisbon Metro, high speed commuter train, regional trains, national and international buses, a police station, and even a shopping center. The train station has a lattice of reinforced concrete supporting the main floors, and a lattice structure of glass and metal covering the main floors and train platforms.

It was time to check into my hotel. The Myriad Hotel is adjacent to the Torre Casco da Gama Tower & Myriad Hotel. The tower is a 145 metre (476 foot) tall tower that was built in 1998. The 22 floor hotel was later built in 2012, and stands 72 metres (236 feet) tall. The tower was built in 1998 for the Expo ’98 World’s Fair. At the base of the tower, which is shaped like a sail, was a three-story building that served as the European Union Pavilion during the Expo. After the Expo was finished the three-story building was supposed to be leased out, but never found tenants, and sat vacant, with the rare exception for one-off events. Both the observation deck, and restaurant were closed in October 2004. Parque Expo eventually received permission along the riverside to build a 178 room luxury hotel. The three-storey building was demolished to make way for the 5-star Myriad hotel, which was designed by Portuguese architect Nuno Leonidas. In 2018 the panoramic restaurant named Fifty Seconds, was opened up in the space that was previously the observation deck, and now has a one-star Michelin rating.

After settling in for a bit it was time to set out and explore the Expo ’98 site. Expo ’98 was the specialized World’s Fair that was held in Lisbon from May 22nd to September 30th 1998. The theme of the fair was “The Oceans, a Heritage for the Future”. 143 countries participated, and the expo received over 11 million visitors. The idea for Portugal to host the World’s Fair actually dates back to 1989. The expo was built in a derelict area of the city, and ended up creating a thriving neighbourhood that left a legacy. The buildings include Oriente Station (see what I wrote above), designed by Santiago Calatrava; Portugal Pavilion, designed by Alvaro Siza Vieira; Lisbon Oceanarium New Extension, designed by Campo Costa Arquitetos; Teatro Camoes (Camoes Theater), designed by Manuel Salgado (RISCO); Pavilhao do Conhecimento, designed by João Luís Carrilho da Graça; Utopian Pavilion (MEO Arena), designed by SOM; Torre Vasco da Gama (see what I wrote above), designed by Leonor Janeiro and Nicholas Jacobs; and Vasco da Gama Bridge, designed by Armando Rito.

Portugal Pavilion is the central hub, or jewel of the Expo site. Located along the Tagus River, this building has an enormous and thin concrete canopy (70 metres by 50 metres and only 20 centimetres thick) draped between two columns, creating a beautiful frame of the water. This beautiful building was designed by Alvaro Siza Vieira. The canopy is formed by the catenary arc of steel cables draped between the columns (porticoes) which were constructed with pre-stressed concrete. This is essentially the same technology used in suspension bridges, and Calgary’s own Saddle Dome arena. It is designed as a stressed-ribbon structure, wherein the loose cables are stiffened with concrete to eliminate sway and bounce.

The Lisbon Oceanarium was built for Expo ’98, and is the largest indoor aquarium in Europe. The largest tank is a 5000 cubic metres! It was designed by Peter Chermayeff, the same designer behind Osaka Oceanarium Kaiyukan, which is one of the largest aquariums in the world. I went to Osaka in 2017, however I didn’t have time to visit it unfortunately. Inside the oceanarium there is a large collection of marine species (over 450 species, and over 16000 animals), including penguins, otters, sharks, rays, seahorses, starfish, etc.

Teatro Camoes (Camoes Theater) is another Expo ’98 facility. It was a concert hall with a capacity for 873 visitors at a time. I wouldn’t call this building beautiful by any means, however it’s certainly unique. The building is comprised predominantly of corrugated metal that is painted blue.

Pavilhao do Conhecimento is an interactive science museum that was built for Expo ’98. The modern building was designed by Carrilho da Graça and engineer António Adão da Fonseca.

Atlice Arena, also known as the Utopian Pavilion, is a multi-purpose indoor arena that was built specifically for Expo ’98. It has a capacity of over 20000 people, and was designed by Regino Cruz, alongside Skidmoore, Owings & Merrill (SOM). SOM completed many large sporting pavilions in Portland, Philadelphia, Oakland, and Minneapolis, as well as the Casco da Gama Tower, where I stayed during my stay in Lisbon. This unique building certainly resembles a UFO. In the background of this photo you can also see Torres Sao Rafael & Sao Gabriel, which are two modern luxury condos that are located close to the Expo ’98 site. They both have 24 floors and are 110 metres tall, and are the tallest residential buildings in the country. They somewhat resemble sails.

The Vasco da Gama Bridge is a six lane cable-stayed bridge, designed by Armando Rito, that spans the Tagus River. It is the second longest bridge in Europe, after the Crimean Bridge. It was built to solve a major congestion issue on Lisbon’s 25 de Abril Bridge, and eliminate traffic to have to pass through the city. Construction took place between February 1995 and March 1998, which coincided with the opening of Expo ’98. It is 12.3 kilometres long, 30 metres wide, and 148 metres tall at it’s tallest point. The longest span is 420 metres.

Telecabine Lisbon is a cable car that was built for Expo ’98. It covers a distance of 1230 m from the Aquarium to the Vasco da Gama Tower. Each gondola car can hold 8 people, and the route takes about 10 minutes to cover. This is how I took the pictures I posted above.

Also on site is a beautifully created piece of artwork of an Iberian Lynx, dubbed Bordalo II, by Artur Bordalo. He was tired of seeing trash strewn about the city, so he decided to do something about it and make art. This art has been on site since Summer 1999. I was inspired to find more of his artwork, so I will source that out on other days.

After exploring the Expo ’98 facility I explored other area’s of Lisbon, starting with a few subway stations.

Olaias Subway Station is located on the Red Line of the Lisbon Metro. The station, designed by Tomas Taveria, was built in 1998 and features beautiful art that was created by Pedro Cabrita Reis, Graça Pereira Coutinho, Pedro Calapez and Rui Sanchez.

Picoas Subway Station is located on the Yellow Line of the Lisbon Metro. That station, designed by Picoas Subway Station, was built in 1959. It was rebuilt and extended in 1982, and rebuilt again in 1995 based on the design of Dinis Gomes. What caught my eye was the classic Art Nouveau entrance, similar to some of the metro stations I saw in Paris.

Next to Picoas Subway station is Av Fontes Pereira de Melo 28 is an Art Nouveau building that was built between 1910 and 1914 as a residence for José Maria Marques. It was designed by architect Manuel Joaquim Norte Junior. Also next door was a really neat looking abandoned set of old buildings.

The Campo Pequeno Bullring was built between 1890 and 1892. It was designed predominantly for bullfighting, however it is also used for various other events. This beautiful building is of neo-Mudéjar style, a romantic style inspired by the ancient Arabic architecture of the Iberian Peninsula. The building design was based off an old bullring in Madrid that was designed by Emilio Rodriguez Ayuso, which was later demolished. The bull ring has a circular floorplan with four large octagonal towers on each cardinal point with oriental-looking domes. The Western tower is flanked by two turrets and serves as main entrance. The windows on the building also have a horseshoe shape.

The Museum Residence of Dr. Anastacio Goncalves is a fabulous Art Nouveau style building that was the former residence of Dr. Anastacio Goncalves, that was later converted into a museum showcasing 19th-cenutyr Portuguese painting and Art Nouveau art and artifacts. The house was originally built in 1904 for José Victor Branco Malhoa, who sold it after his wife’s death in 1919. He moved into a home in Praça da Alegria. Between 1919 and 1932, the house exchanged hands a few times, before Dr. Anastácio Gonçalves, a great collector of artworks, moved in. Upon his death in 1965, the house and all its artifacts were left to the State, in order to create a museum.

Sotto Mayor Palace was built for the Portuguese aristocrat Sotto Mayor in the late 19th century. He was one of the wealthiest people in Portugal at the time. In 1988 the Sotto Mayor Palace was made a property of public interest after a fire at the palace.

I saw a beautiful Art Deco building on R. Rodrigues Sampaio 50C. I couldn’t find any information about it unfortunately.

Nearby to this Art Deco building I also saw two more buildings I found quite interesting.

Cinema São Jorge is one of the most prestigious cinemas in Portugal. It was opened in 1950. It consists of three rooms; Manoel de Oliveira, with 827 seats; Montepio, with 150 seats and room for 250 standing; and “Room 3”, with 199 seats.

Parque Mayer is the theatre district in Lisbon. It opened in 1956, and closed its doors in 1995. The land was originally used as a garden attached to Palacete Mayer (now the Spanish Embassy), before it was used as an amusement park in 1921, before the first of four theatres was built on the land. Teatro Maria Vitoria was opened in 1922, and continues to function to this day, although it was almost destroyed by a fire in 1986. In 1926, Teatro Varidades was opened. That theatre also survived a fire, and eventually closed its doors in 1992, and is currently undergoing restoration. Teatro Capitolio, a modernist style building, was opened in 1931, and is still in use today, however was closed for a long period of time due to extensive water damage. The last theatre, was Teatro ABC, which was opened in 1956, and was demolished in 2015.

Before heading back to my hotel I grabbed a salad, banana, and some sparkling water. I ate my dinner and chatted on the phone with a few friends, before heading up to the pool and sauna to relax for a bit. Continuing on the water theme afterwards I ran myself a nice jacuzzi tub, while watching some of the new season of Mayday: Air Crash Investigation. After getting my fill of relaxation it was time to head to bed.

Be sure to check back tomorrow, when I explore Sintra and Cascais.

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Czech Republic – Prague

I spent the last two days exploring the beautiful city of Prague. Prague, the capital of the Czech Republic, has an extremely rich history dating back to 1306 BC. I’m going to dive into the history of how the Czech Republic came to be, and then go into detail about the sights that I saw.

Prague’s History

The city was founded as Boihaem in 1306 BC by King Boyya. Around the 4th century BC a Celtic tribe appeared in the area and setup settlements, which eventually became suburbs of Prague. The region was named the Region of Bohemia, which means “home of the Hoii people”.

The Celts were eventually driven away by Germanic tribes. In the late 5th Century AD, during the great Migration Period following the collapse of the Roman Empire, the Germanic tribes living in Bohemia moved west and the Slavic’s moved in. During the next three centuries the Czechs and Zlicanis built several fortified settlements in the area, and eventually the fortified settlement where Prague Castle now stands today was built towards the tail end of the 9th century. The cathedral construction began in 1344, but wasn’t completed until the 20th century, but more on that later on. The area was an important trading center, where merchants from all over Europe came together.

In 1805, Vratislav II became the first Czech king. In 1310 the Holy Roman emperor John of Luxembourg became king of Bohemia. The city blossomed in the 14th century under Luxembourg ruling during the reign of Charles IV. Prague became one of Europe’s largest and wealthiest cities. In 1355, Charles IV was elected as the Holy Emperor and Prague became the capital of the Holy Roman Empire.

During the 15th century there were religious conflicts between Hussite and the Roman Catholic Church in Bohemia. This was caused by Jan Hus’s church reform movement, which eventually led to his conviction and his death. This provoked Jan Zelivsky, a Hussite preacher, to rebel. Catholic councilor were thrown from the top of the New Town Hall, and Prague was then ruled by the Hussite’s. Unfortunately many historical monuments were destroyed and Prague Castle also became damaged.

In 1526, the Habsburg dynasty began ruling Prague. Prague Castle was reconstructed. In 1575, Rudolf II was crowned as the Holy Emperor. During the Habsburg Ruling Prague became known as the center of science and alchemy. Many famous scientists were attracted to Prague during this time.

The 17th Century was known as the Dark Age due to multiple uprisings starting in 1618. In 1620, the Battled of White Mountain took place and the Protestants were defeated leading to the loss of Prague’s independence. The Saxons began occupying Prague and the Swedes moved into Hradčany and Malá Strana in 1648. The city’s population started to decline, and roughly 50% of the population decided to leave.

In 1784, the city was divided up into four independent urban areas by Jospeh II; Staré město/Old Town, Lesser Town/Malá Strana, Hradčany and Nové město/New Town. During this time, the National Revival, a Czech nationalist movement began that brought the Czech language, culture and identity back into existence.

The Industrial Revolution was a booming time in Prague, with many industries setting up shop. In 1845 a railway was built between Vienna and Prague. There was a massive influx of people moving into Prague.

Prague became the capital of the independent Czechoslovakia after the fall of the Austro-Hungarian empire in 1918. During World War II Prague was occupied by the German Nazi’s. After the war, Czechoslovakia was re-established as an independent state. In 1946 the communists became the dominant party and formed a coalition government with other socialist parties. In 1948 the communists seized power. In the 1950’s the country suffered harsh repression and decline, and many Stalin style practices were adopted by the Communist Part of Czechoslovakia (KSC). Eventually these people in charge of the KSC were executed.

On November 17th 1989, the Velvet Revolution occurred, which ended communism making Czechoslovakia a democratic country. In January 1990 the first democratic elections were conducted, with Vaclav Havel becoming the president. On January 1st 1993 Czechoslovakia was split into two independent countries; Slovakia and Czech Republic, with Prague becoming the capital of Czech Republic.

Petrin Tower

The Petrin Tower was built in 1891 and resembles the Eiffel Tower. It was built for the World’s Jubilee Exhibition and was completed in only four months. It was used as an observation tower as well as a transmission tower. The tower sits in the centre of Petrin Hill, about a half hour walk up steep paths. There are two observation platforms accessible via 299 stairs for 150 CZH ($8.50 CDN) or via an elevator for 210 CZH ($11.85 CDN). The stairs are setup in a double-helix structure allowing visitors to travel up and down concurrently. At the top you’re gifted with some beautiful views of Prague Castle and the surrounding area below.

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Prague Castle & Surrounding Area

Prague Castle is a massive castle complex that was built between 870 and 1929. It is considered the largest ancient castle in the world and occupies over 750,000 square feet of space. It is the official office of the President of the Czech Republic and was a seat of power for numerous kings of Bohemia, Holy Roman emperors, and presidents of Czechoslovakia. The Bohemian Crown Jewels are kept within a hidden room somewhere inside of it. It’s history began in 870 when the Church of the Virgin Mary was built. Eventually a Romanesque palace was erected during the 12th century, and numerous expansions and fires have occurred since.

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Charles Bridge & Old Town Bridge Tower

Old Town Bridge Tower was built in the late 14th century during the ruling of Emperor Charles IV. It was designed by Petr Parléř. It is on the south end of Charles Bridge. Charles Bridge was built between 1357 and 1402. It was the replacement for the damaged Judith Bridge that was built between 1158 and 1172, which was washed out in a flood in 1342. It was the only means of crossing the river Vltava until 1841. Many people congregate on the bridge and live music often occurs here.

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Dancing House

Dancing House, also known as Fred and Ginger; a nickname given to the Nationale-Nederlanden building, was designed by Croatian-Czech architect Vlado Milunić in cooperation with Canadian-American architect Frank Gehry on a vacant riverfront plot. The building was designed in 1992 and completed in 1996. The building recieved its nickname after the famous dancers Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, as the house resembles a pair of dancers.

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St. Wenceslas Church

St. Wenceslas Church was built in 1930 as a commemoration of the 1000th anniversary of the death of St. Wenceslas, Duke of Bohemia. This was one of three buildings built for the commemoration. The Art Deco style church stands fairly tall at 50 metres tall.

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The Church of the Most Sacred Heart

The Church of the Most Sacred Heart is a Roman Catholic church that was built between 1929 and 1932. It was designed by architect Jože Plečnik. This was one of the other buildings built to commemorate the 1000th anniversary of the death of St. Wenceslas, Duke of Bohemia.

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Church of St. Ludmila

The Church of St. Ludmila is a neo-gothic Roman Catholic church at Náměstí Míru (Peace Square). The church was built between 1888 and 1892 to honor St. Ludmila of Bohemia. The church has two 60.6 metre tall towers with bells and a tall cable with a portal above the main entrance, which is adjourned with sculptures.

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Narodni Museum

The Narodni Museum (National Museum of Prague) was originally founded in 1796 by the first president of the Society of the Patriotic Museum, Count Sternberk, who served as the trustee and operator of the museum at the time. The museum’s original focus was that of natural sciences. The museum became too small and the current location was built in 1818, but it didn’t actually acquire any historical objects until the 1830’s and 1840’s, when Romanticism arose. Today the museum houses over 14 million items in its collection. This is a must see if you’re into museums!

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Žižkov Television Tower

The Žižkov Television Tower was built between 1985 and 1992. It was designed by architect Václav Aulický. The tower is constructed of steel tubes filled with concrete. The tower was built for a fairly low cost of only $19 million. The tower stands at 216 metres tall and has an observation deck at 93 metres, a hotel room at 70 metres, and a restaurant at 66 metres.

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Astronomical Clock Tower

The Prague Astronomical Clock Tower is a medieval astronomical clock that was built in 1410. It’s the third oldest astronomical clock in the work, and the oldest clock still in operational use. The clock was made by clockmakers  Mikuláš of Kadaň and Jan Šindel. The clock mechanism has three main components; 1) the astronomical dial, representing the position of the Sun and Moon in the sky and displaying various astronomical details, 2) an hourly clockwork of figures of the Apostles, 3) a calendar dial with medallions representing the months.

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Stone Bell House

The Stone Bell House is named after the stone bell embedded in the outside corner of the building. The bell is said to be a reminder of the arrival of John of Bohemia to Prague in 1310, after the city was seized and occupied by Henry of Bohemia. The house was renovated to a Baroque style during the 15th and 19th centuries and lost most of its original Gothic image. The house underwent extensive renovations from 1975 to 1987 to restore much of this image, with the original Gothic façade being uncovered and restored.

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Old Town Hall

The Old Town Hall was built in 1364. The site where the Old Town Hall tower stands today technically was used as a town hall since 1338 when the councillors of the Old Town bought a large house from the Volfin family and adopted it for purpose. This was largely disassembled and the current tower was built in its place in 1364, with only the Gothic stone portal on the western side being the only remaining original piece. The Old Town Hall had numerous expansions as well as fires over the years.

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St. Nicholas Church

St. Nicholas Church was built between 1732 and 1737 on the site of a Gothic church from the 13th century that was dedicated to Saint Nicholas. An interesting thing to note is that during the Prague uprising in 1945, the church was used by the Czech partisans as a concealed site for Radio Prague, as the main building was attacked.

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Prague Metronome

The Prague Metronome is a 23 metre tall functioning metronome in Letna Park, which overlooks the Vltava River. It was erected in 1991 on the plinth left vacant by the formerly demolished 1962 monument of former Soviet leader Joseph Stalin. At the top of the Metronome you can see the absolutely amazing views of the city below!

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Expo 1958 Pavilion

In 1958, Brussels hosted the first World’s Fair after World War 2. Different countries have the opportunity to shape the Expo by contributing interesting buildings. In that year Czechoslovakia was the winner. The building was designed by architects Frantisek Cubr, Josef Hruby and Zdenek Pokorny exclusively for the world exhibition. The L-shaped complex had an extension for restaurants and consisted of three windowless areas, which were connected by two glazed aisles.

After the World’s Fair came to an end, the building was completely dismantled and taken back to Prague. Since 1961 only the former restaurant building still exists. The building is currently being used as an office building. Unfortunately, it was destroyed in a fire in 1991, but could be reconstructed again.

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Industrial Palace

Prague’s Industrial Palace, also known as Výstaviště Praha is an exhibition area that is used for exibitions, concerts and other cultural events. It was built in 1891 by Bedřich Münzberge in an Art Nouveau architectural style. The building is built of glass and steel and is divded into 3 independent parts; the left and right wings, as well as a middle hall with a 51 metre tall clock tower. In 2008 the Palace caught fire, which destoryed the left wing. The left wing is currently being rebuilt.

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Subway System

Prague’s Metro system has some particularly beautiful stations located on the “A Line”, which are worth seeing. The Metro system is comprised of 65 km of track and 61 stations. The system includes the A, B, and C lines, and started operations in 1974 with the A Line. Prague’s Metro is the fifth busiest metro system in Europe, serving over 1.6 million people daily!

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Various Photos

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Belgium – Brussels – Day 2 of 2

Today I woke up at 8:00am and had some coffee in my room before venturing out to explore more of the city.

First stop was Hôtel van Eetvelde, which was sadly under construction so I couldn’t get any good pictures of it. Hôtel van Eetvelde is a town house designed in 1895 by Victor Horta for Edmond van Eetvelde, the administrator of Congo Free State.

Second stop was Maison Saint-Cyr was built in 1903 to serve as a mansion for the painter Georges Saint-Cyr. The façade is about four metres wide, and is rich in finely worked ironwork that forms a set of lines, curves and geometric figures. Each balcony has a railing with different patterns.

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Third stop was Stoclet Palace, after a few quick photos of some various things along the way. Stoclet Palace was built in 1911 in the Viennese Secession style by architect Josef Hoffmann. It was built for Adophe Stoclet, a wealthy industrialist and art collector.

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Fourth stop and fifth stop was Arcades du Cinquantenaire and Autoworld. Arcades du Cinquantenaire is a triple arch in the centre of Brussels and is topped by a bronze quadriga sculpture group with a woman charioteer, representing Brabant raising the national flag. Autoworld is a substantial collection of vintage vehicles in extremely well preserved states.

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The sixth stop was the National Basilica of the Sacred Heart, a beautiful Art Deco church that was completed in 1970. Construction began in 1905 in Neo-Gothic style, but only the foundations had been completed before World War 1 broke out. Construction of the actual basilica began in 1919, with the architectural style changing to Art Deco, and was not completed until 1970.

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The seventh and eighth stops were Mini-Europe and Atomium. Mini-Europe is a miniature park that was started in 1989 and represents over 80 countries and 350 buildings. Atomium was designed and constructed for the 1958 Brussels World Expo by architect Andre and Jean Polak. It is 102 metres (335 feet) tall and has nine 18 metre (60 foot) diameter stainless steel clad spheres which are connected by escalators and stairs. 3 metre (10 foot) diameter tubes connect the spheres. The central tube had the world’s fastest elevator at the time; allowing people to reach the summit in only 23 seconds at 5 metres/second. The Atomium, was designed to last a mere six months and was slated for destruction after the 1958 World Expo, but due to its popularity it made it a major element of Brussels landscape. A weird piece of history about Atomium is that SABAM, Belgium’s society for collecting copyrights, claimed worldwide intellectual property rights on all reproduction of the image via the United States Artists Rights Society (ARS). There are numerous censored images circulating the internet, but finally in 2016 there was a bill enacted to allow pictures to be legally distributed.

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I then stopped for dinner at the same restaurant I stopped at for lunch yesterday; Tonton Garby, before heading to get a new power adapter, because I somehow forgot mine at home. After getting a power adapter I visited the Brussels Comic Strip Museum, and then went to Beer Planet and picked up a few authentic trappist monk beers that were recommended to me.

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I went back to my hotel room to edit photos and write my blog before heading out to take some night time photos of Atomium.